009 Ralph Barnett – Branding

009 Ralph Barnett -

In Episode Nine of the Comp Ready series of The Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast, I chat with Ralph Barnett from Shank Brothers BBQ on one of the more ‘businessy’ aspects of competition BBQ: Branding. The Shank Brothers are without a doubt Australia’s highest profile BBQ team. This is not only because they consistently turn out top ten quality BBQ, but because they are also deadly consistent in their branding which is so important for building a public profile.

Thanks and appreciation go to Coastline Barbeques and Heating for sponsoring the first series of the Smoking Hot Confessions podcast. Check out their website for more!

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  • ‘The Shankenwurst’ – Emu and Pork, Beer Infused Sausage
  • To get onto ‘Aussie BBQ Heroes’ they recorded an anti-audition video telling Channel 7 why they’d be lucky to have the Shank Bros. This piqued Channel 7’s interest and they got on the show
    • In order to remember recipes over the duration of the show, they divided responsibilities to ensure they worked together well
    • Being on the show was life-changing for both Ralph and Mike
  • Ralph’s earliest BBQ low’n’slow memory was when he surprised Mike with a pig’s head
    • Mike was nonplussed and virtually ate the whole head by himself
  • Both Ralph and Mike have advertising backgrounds
  • Creativity is what makes Shank Bros’ BBQ unique – they don’t want to just replicate what’s already out there.
    • They try to show their personalities in their food
    • They enjoy cooking with alcohol
    • They enjoy cooking with smoke
  • Ralph loved winning Banglow BBQ & Bluegrass Festival and thinks it’s the best one he’s been to
  • The Shanks did Meatstock by FIFO
    • They borrowed some things from people already in Sydney and had their friends the Barbecue Mafia brings a few things down for them
  • Competitions are all about having a good weekend with some friends and making quality memories
    • Branding
      • It’s Ralph’s profession
      • Branding is a unique presence or position in the world
      • If you can create a brand that conveys your attitude, you’ll stand out in the crowd
      • Names will indicate if teams are there for fun or if they’re there representing a business
      • Your brand and name need to be memorable to people will have quick recall of who you are and what you are about
    • Theming your brand
      • Can take days or months to come up with something perfect. Sometimes you hit on a winner straight away. It needs to ‘feel’ right.
    • When naming your team
      • What is the collective personality of the team and what do you want to do with the team?
        • If it’s just for fun, make a name that will get some giggles
        • If you’ve got business aspirations you need to be a bit more serious
        • Look into existing names to be aware of any legal implications
      • Keep the name relatively short to enhance quick recall
      • To make sure you’re not infringing on people’s business names, try some government sites, and check domain names
      • Start by typing your team name with .com or .com.au and if no one has that domain, you’re probably on the right track
    • When designing a good logo
      • Ralph highly recommends going to a proper graphic designer to get your logo done so that it is unique and stand out
      • Avoid clichéd images and icons
      • The whole point of building a brand is to be unique
    • Essential merch for a first time competitive BBQ team:
      • Functional merchandise is best
        • For example get a branded hoodie to when you’re cold you can still be representing your brand
        • Caps, t-shirts and hoodies are very important
      • Next most important is a branded marquee for your team site
    • To get your merch done the range is wide
      • You can get iron-on prints that you can print off on your home printer
      • There are many screen printers around as well as online
      • Initial cost will be higher than ongoing costs as the screens need to be set up
      • Try bartering – briskets for t-shirts
      • Shanks use ‘The Print Bar’ theprintbar.com
  • The Shank Bros Mission Statement:
    • Principles:
      • Always fun
      • Don’t take themselves too seriously
      • Effort in = Reward out
      • A Nation of Collaboration – always on the lookout for opportunities to collaborate
      • To be unique and creative when cooking BBQ
    • They don’t have a set number of practices for a recipe before taking it to a comp
      • A particular protein is assigned to a particular team member as they take ownership and responsibility for that protein
      • The individual team member is responsible for practicing the recipe until it’s ready
      • They will specialise in the lead up to a comp but overall they generalise to allow for flexibility in the face of unexpected events
    • Ralph is responsible for lamb in the team
    • There is a great opportunity for high school students to put together a team and enter much like Voodoo Dolls’ BBQ.
      • Cooking has been done on fire and charcoal for as long as humans have been around so it’s a great thing to learn
    • The Pro Q Stretch is a brilliant piece of equipment. It’s incredibly efficient and he can set and forget it.
      • The Stretch is a vertical cabinet with a charcoal basket underneath
      • It is a ‘reverse flow’ cabinet – the heat and smoke is drawn up an inner liner in the walls, brought back in at the bottom and then back out the top
      • The door is incredibly well sealed and latched so it’s completely air and water tight so the heat, smoke and moisture never escapes
    • Ralph on brisket
      • Always watch someone else cook a brisket before you have a crack. The biggest advantage is that you’ll know how it should taste
      • Find a course or master class on how to cook brisket
      • Start with either a flat or a point, rather than a whole brisket
        • The point is more forgiving
      • Strike up a relationship with a butcher so you get a good brisket from the outset
        • Seasonality can play a big part – often leaner in winter
      • Accept that you’ll always be learning
    • Burnt ends
      • Flavour profiles are more important than the way the brisket is cut prior to cooking
      • Try and avoid caramelising your burnt ends to you’re not hiding the natural flavour of the beef
    • Ralph’s Top 3 Tips for new teams
      • Understand your team dynamic – work out who’s doing what and your time frames well before the competition
      • Pack just enough beer and whiskey to have a good time but not get completely written off
      • Make friends with your neighbours – the first thing you should do is go and have a chat with your neighbours


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